Posts Tagged ‘postsecondary’

Free College: Looking Ahead

Monday, October 15th, 2018

Advance CTE wrote a series of blog posts profiling the policies and practices of free college in the United States. This post will explore the future landscape of community college. Check out previous blogs on the history of free college, Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars Program and challenges and limitations to free college programs.

As of September 2018, there are over 350 local and state college promise programs across the country. Though the source of funding for free college varies , the goal of increasing access despite the growing cost of college is the commonality. So far, the 2018 election cycle has seen a number of candidates include some form of free college in their platform. Overall, ten Democratic gubernatorial candidates are promoting free college in their campaign. For example, Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous is advocating for free community college and debt free four-year college, Arizona gubernatorial candidate David Garcia is supporting a proposal to make four-year public colleges free and Connecticut gubernatorial Ned Lamont is proposing making the first two years free at any state public college.

At the federal level, various members of Congress have introduced legislation that promotes free college. Perhaps most well known is Senator Bernie Sanders’ (VT-I) “College for All,” proposed in the spring of 2017, that promotes measures such as making all public colleges free for learners with a household income of up to $125,000 and having all community colleges be tuition free. In the spring of 2018 Senator Brian Schatz (HI-D) introduced the “Debt Free College Act” that proposes measures to make college debt free with a focus on the total fees associated with college (such as textbooks, food and housing) instead of only tuition.

The Institute for Higher Education explored the concept of free college, and came up with five ways to fix current programs and build “equity-driven federal and state free-college programs:”

  1. Invest first and foremost in low-income students;
  2. Fund non-tuition expenses for low-income students;
  3. Include four-year colleges in free college programs;
  4. Support existing state need-based grant programs; and
  5. Avoid restrictive or punitive participation requirements, such as post-college residency requirements

 

Additionally, the Education Trust evaluated free college programs through an equity lens, and developed equity driven guidelines to rate and improve current state tuition-free college programs or proposals. They built an eight-step evaluation to use when assessing free college program quality:

  1. Whether the programs cover living expenses;
  2. Whether they cover fees;
  3. Whether they cover the total cost of tuition for at least four years of college;
  4. Whether they include bachelor’s-degree programs;
  5. Whether adult students are eligible;
  6. Whether repayment of aid is required under certain circumstances;
  7. Whether there are GPA requirements; and
  8. Whether there are additional requirements to maintain eligibility

 

Although there is a growing national focus on free college, and even more state-level attention on this issue, a uniform agreement on what this should look like is lacking. There is no general consensus on what free college should look like and the scope of what “free” would truly mean. However, the overarching common goal of making college affordable and accessible will keep the conversation around free college moving forward.

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate

By Meredith Hills in Uncategorized
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Free College: Limitations and Challenges

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018

Advance CTE is writing a series of blog posts profiling the policies and practices of free college in the United States. This post will explore some of the challenges inherent in free college programs. Check out previous blogs on the history of free college and Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars Program, and look back next week for a blog on the future of free college.

Free college programs have become a popular idea to combat the rising cost of higher education and increase postsecondary attainment for all. However, a variety of different types of initiatives are branded as “free college,” when in reality that term can be misleading for what is actually provided. For example, state-led free college programs are typically “last dollar in.” This means that first grant aid, such as Pell grants, is given to learners and the state will pay for the remaining tuition. Although this is a significant contribution, this “last dollar” practice means that students are using only grant money for tuition instead of putting it towards additional costs of college such as housing, food, textbooks and any other fees. Most of the states that offer free college programs do so through this approach. Additionally, these free college initiatives are often directed toward students who recently graduated high school leaving non-traditional students with large financial barriers.

Free college is really addressed at the state level, instead of the federal level, which means there are inherent limitations. There are considerable constraints on the amount of money states are able to put toward free college programs. In order to keep the state costs low, limits are put on who is eligible and how exactly the money can be applied to the college. For example, states may only open free college programs to recent high school graduates and allow the money to be applied to community colleges, certain areas of study or include the stipulation that participants have to live and work in that state for a number of years.

Overall, state funding to higher education is shrinking. When states are forced to cut portions of their budget, higher education is typically one of the first areas to feel the impact. What’s more, Most of the state tuition-free programs are discretionary, so the allocated amount can change every year.  

Although the free college movement can improve access, because of the many limitations to what free college can actually mean, access is limited for low-income students. The Education Trust’s, “A Promise Fulfilled,” looked at 15 current and 16 proposed state free college programs, and found that unless they are specifically designed to address the needs of low-income students, they do not benefit these learners.

It is clear that although the notion of free college is a positive one, in practice such programs do not always increase opportunities for higher education for everyone. These programs do have potential for more equitable access to postsecondary education if they are created with intentionality. However, if the cost of college continues to go up, increased and equitable postsecondary attainment will persistently be a challenge.

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate

By Meredith Hills in Uncategorized
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Free College: Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars Program

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

Advance CTE will be writing a series of blog posts profiling the policies and practices of free college in the United States. This post will explore one example of a free college program. Check out last week’s blog on the history of free college, and look for future blogs on the challenges and future of free college.

The idea of free college has gained traction in a number of states. Indiana has been at the forefront of this movement, and has had some form of free college for the past 30 years. Currently, Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars program allows participants up to four years of free enrollment at a two or four-year institution. This covers the cost of tuition and any additional fees. Indiana is unique in including four-year colleges in this program, since fewer than half of states with free college initiatives include four-year institutions in their policies. 

This program covers tuition on a “first dollar” basis, meaning that students remain eligible for other forms of aid to go toward non-tuition expenses. Any additional aid learners might receive from the state is not impacted by grants received to cover non-tuition charges.  

Learners can become involved in this program as early as seventh grade. Students who qualify for free or reduced lunch in seventh or eighth grade are eligible to apply to be part of 21st Century Scholars. Below are 12 requirements that participating students must meet throughout high school in order to qualify:

In 2017, the program granted over $160 million in financial aid. As of the fall of 2018, there were about 80,000 program participants throughout middle and high school and 20,000 in college. This program has bipartisan support in the state.  

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate

By Meredith Hills in Uncategorized
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Free College: A Brief Policy History

Monday, September 24th, 2018

Advance CTE will be writing a series of blog posts profiling the policies and practices of free college in the United States. This post will explore the history of the movement toward free college. Check back for blogs on the challenges, successful practices and future of free college.

College affordability, or lack of affordability, is one of the most pressing problem in the world of higher education. Free postsecondary education has long been a topic of conversation, and various models have been piloted at the state and local levels. The Atlantic’s “Debt Free” article explains that this idea was given renewed national attention when former President Barack Obama addressed the topic in his 2015 State of the Union speech. In particular, President Obama advocated that the place to start implementing such policies was in community colleges. Afterward, with the upcoming presidential election campaigns underway, the conversation of free college remained part of many candidates dialogue. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), for example, was a vocal advocate.

Some state higher education institutions previously held free college policies, but found that model unsustainable over time. TIME’s piece, “What Happened When American States Tried Providing Tuition-Free College,” profiled some such examples:

A main driver behind institutions pulling back on free college practices has to do with the significant increase in enrollment, as reported by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Whereas in the 1909-1910 school year only 355,000 of Americans 19-24 years old (2.9 percent of those in that age bracket) enrolled in higher education, by 2012 that number increased to 31.4 million (41 percent). At the same time, state and local funding for public colleges and universities decreased. Just from 2008-2016, overall state dollar allocation across the country to institutions of higher education has declined by 16 percent. If free college policies were put in place at the founding of an institution, the combination of increased enrollment and decreased state and local funding made the model unsustainable.

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate

By Meredith Hills in Research, Uncategorized
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Making the Most of Outcomes-based Funding: Aligning Postsecondary Funding with Labor Market Needs

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

One of the smartest investments state policymakers can make is in postsecondary education. As the economy moves towards more specialized, technology-based industries, learners will need education and training beyond high school to fill the jobs of tomorrow. Today, the ticket to the middle class, and the key ingredient for a thriving state economy, is a strong system of higher education.

Yet, this system is not as efficient as it could be. Three out of every four students who enroll in a public, two-year college do not graduate with a degree or certificate within three years. Whether due to financial or family circumstances, lack of clarity about future career goals, or poor academic preparation, too many students are getting saddled with debt and nothing to show for it.

In recent years states have led renewed efforts to improve student outcomes by restructuring postsecondary funding formulas. This approach, known as performance-based or outcomes-based funding, aims to align state dollars with outcomes that support learner success and economic growth, including progress toward and attainment of a postsecondary credential.

As of Fiscal Year 2016, 30 states were either implementing or developing outcomes-based funding formulas for postsecondary education, though two-year institutions were included in the funding formula in only 22 states. While the widespread enthusiasm for accountability and alignment in higher education funding is remarkable, states vary considerably in their degree of commitment. According to HCM strategies, which published a national scan of outcomes-based funding formulas, only four states (OH, NV, ND and TN) in FY2016 distributed more than 20 percent of state funds to postsecondary institutions based on outcomes.

In 2017, the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) reported that a little more than half of the revenues for postsecondary institutions came from state appropriations (the remaining funding came from local appropriations (6.4 percent) and tuition revenues (43.3 percent)). This gives state policymakers a powerful lever to incentivize change in institutions of higher education.

And, while evidence in support of outcomes-based funding is mixed, positive results have been documented in states with more sophisticated funding systems:

Many states have learned from these lessons and either modified existing or adopted new outcomes-based funding formulas to apply best practices. Arkansas is one such state. In 2016, the state legislature passed HB1209, directing the Higher Education Coordinating Board to design a productivity-based funding formula for state colleges and universities. The formula, which will be used to determine how the Higher Education Coordinating Board distributes general revenue for two-year and four-year institutions,  includes three dimensions:

What is notable about Arkansas’ approach is the use of best practices to incentivize credentials with labor market value and encourage equitable access.

The points an institution receives in the formula for credential attainment are multiplied if the credentials are in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) or state-defined “high-demand” fields. Qualifying fields are designated by the the Arkansas Department of Higher Education and the Department of Workforce Services. The multiplier for STEM degrees is 3 points; the multiplier for degrees in high-demand fields is 1.5 points.

The formula also includes adjustments for historically underserved students by race, income, age and academic proficiency. For certain elements of the formula — such as credential attainment or progression — the point value is increase by 29 percent for each student meeting these criteria.

While it is too early to tell the impact of these changes, Arkansas’ productivity index aims to improve postsecondary outcomes by aligning state funding with labor market needs and encouraging institutions to support historically underserved populations.

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

By Austin Estes in Research
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Advance CTE Releases Report on Postsecondary CTE Program Quality

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

With the majority of “good jobs” that pay a family-sustaining wage requiring at least some college education — such as a technical certificate, associate degree, bachelor’s degree or another credential of value — ensuring the existence of high-quality postsecondary Career Technical Education (CTE) programs and pathways is more important than ever before in preparing learners for high-skill, high-wage and high-demand careers.  

Although postsecondary programs are typically considered to be the purview of individual institutions, supported by academic freedom and local control, states have an important role to play in ensuring that each learner has access to only high-quality and relevant programs, notably by leveraging program approval and program evaluation policies and processes. Today, Advance CTE released Driving Quality in Postsecondary CTE: Approval and Evaluation Policies, a report that explores how states are leveraging this role to ensure quality.

Without question, states and postsecondary systems and institutions face unique challenges and opportunities in the quest to ensure program quality and relevance. These challenges include a variety of governance and delivery models, state and federal requirements, and multiple layers of program approval through regional and occupation-specific accreditors. At the same time, states, systems and institutions have meaningful opportunities to support and fund those programs that are best serving learners and their communities’ workforce needs.

Advance CTE’s report also explores a few specific state examples:

Check out Advance CTE’s report to learn more about ensuring quality in postsecondary CTE programs.

Ashleigh McFadden, State Policy Manager

By Ashleigh McFadden in Publications, Research, Resources
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The New Fact Sheet on the Role of CTE in Statewide Attainment Goals

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

More than 40 states have set statewide attainment goals for the percentage of adults holding postsecondary degrees or credentials by a certain year. These efforts have been sparked by Lumina Foundation’s 2025 national credential attainment goal – 60 percent of Americans holding a credential beyond a high school diploma by 2025.

Some states have involved Career Technical Education (CTE) from the onset and others are now looking to ensure CTE is part of their overall strategy. The new fact sheet released by Advance CTE explains why and how CTE can be a major driver of postsecondary attainment across the country.

 

What States Should Do

Read more about how Oklahoma, New Jersey and Tennessee have connected the dots between CTE and statewide attainment goals in the new fact sheet.

Kate Kreamer, Deputy Executive Director

By Kate Blosveren Kreamer in Advance CTE Announcements, Advance CTE Resources
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New Fact Sheet Encourages Integration between CTE and Postsecondary Student Success Efforts

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

The typical college experience has been described by the Community College Research Center (CCRC) as having the structure of a cafeteria – though there are many programs, services and activities available, it is often left to the learner to make the choices that will lead them to successful program completion and entry into the workforce. This structure has led to an environment where, even with increased access to postsecondary education, learners, particularly those considered “non-traditional,” are not set up for success. Graduation rates for four-year universities are currently at 59 percent, and for community colleges at a dismal 28 percent. 

In response to these results, many community colleges have worked with national organizations like CCRC and the American Association of Community Colleges, among others, to develop student success initiatives, focused on increasing equity and degree completion. These initiatives include numerous reforms of college advising and student support services to ensure that postsecondary learners undergo a seamless journey throughout their experience and complete college with a meaningful degree.

Unfortunately, too often these initiatives happen in silos, separate from postsecondary CTE initiatives. Today, Advance CTE released a new fact sheet describing how CTE and student success efforts can support each other. For example, a big part of student success initiatives focuses on helping students choose pathways and meta majors – the National Career Clusters Framework has for many years served as a way to group similar pathways together and help students narrow their choices. Additionally, the role of strategies like career advising and employer mentorship have long been crucial parts of CTE programs of study.

For more information on how these initiatives can help each other, read the fact sheet today.

Ashleigh McFadden, State Policy Manager

By Ashleigh McFadden in Advance CTE Resources
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Leaders in Data Analysis Discuss Improving Student Outcomes in Higher Education

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

In light of Congress’ work towards reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA), Results for America, Knowledge Alliance and America Forward hosted an event  on March 22 about the role that data and evidence can play in improving student outcomes in higher education. This event also came after Results for America released their bipartisan report, “Moneyball for Higher Education,” which outlines recommendations for how state leaders should use data and evidence in the financing of colleges to improve student outcomes.

The event began with remarks from U.S. Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) about the importance of evidence and innovation in higher education. Meng discussed the City University of New York’s (CUNY) Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), which provides financial, academic and financial support to assist students in earning their associate degrees within three years. Meng highlighted the data-driven nature of ASAP, as the program tracks metrics that include advisors’ contact with students and student outcome trends to determine what is working in the program and where improvements can be made.

While ASAP costs CUNY more per student initially than students not involved in ASAP, by graduation, CUNY spends less per ASAP student compared to students not in the program because the students in ASAP graduate at a faster rate than students not in ASAP. Graduation rates for students in ASAP have increased to 40 percent, compared to 22 percent for CUNY students overall.

The event ended with a panel that featured experts in the field of education and data analysis. James Kvaal, the President of the Institute for College Access and Success, outlined what he would like to see come from a reauthorized HEA: investing in ways to measure critical outcomes, sectioning off one percent of the higher education budget for evaluation and systemically channeling resources into programs that work. Michael Weiss, a senior associate from MDRC, mentioned the need for more comprehensive, long-lasting interventions, such as the ASAP program, that address multiple barriers to education across an extended period of time.

The panel concluded with the panelists discussing what they would change about the education system. Greg Johnson, CEO of Bottom Line, advocated tying Pell grants to an advising requirement. Kvaal emphasized the importance of colleges deciding what outcomes they want to produce and then investing the necessary resources so that those outcomes can come to fruition. Weiss expressed his desire for the use of a funding model that would allow for experimentation on the lowest level and an investment in data driven programs like ASAP on the highest level.

While the panelists recognized that the current education system is inequitable and touched on ways that data can be used to improve student outcomes in higher education, it would have been great to hear more on how data could be used to align labor market needs with student outcomes, as well as how data from the secondary system can be used to create higher-quality postsecondary programs.

Brianna McCain, Policy Associate

By Brianna McCain in Uncategorized
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Two Surveys Examine Perceptions of and Concerns about Postsecondary Education

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

The Princeton Review recently released the findings of their annual survey of college applicants and parents discussing their perspective on the admissions process. When asked about their biggest concerns about college, the biggest worry was the debt students and their families will take on to pay for a degree. Parents and students prioritized overall “fit” and a match with the student’s career interests when choosing a college. These results fit with the perceived biggest benefit of a college education – a better job and higher income. Given this information, communications about the opportunities CTE provides in these categories would be very beneficial as students begin to plan for their futures.

New America also just released national survey data about perceptions of higher education. This survey contains some promising data for community colleges. 64 percent of respondents believe that two-year community colleges “are for people in my situation.” More people (80%) believe that two-year community colleges prepare people to be successful. This is higher than four-year public (77%) four-year private (75%) and for-profit (60%). Additionally, 83 percent of respondents believe that two-year community colleges contribute to a strong workforce. This is higher than four-year public (79%) four-year private (70%) and for-profit (59%).

U.S. Teens Fall Behind International Peers in Financial Literacy Exam

The results of the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exam on financial literacy have been released, and the results are less than promising. The financial literacy exam has been administered twice now to a select number of participating Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. US teens scored an average score of 487, two points below the international average. In 2012, American students received average scores of 492, while the OECD average that year was 499.

Though the U.S. has scored close to the OECD average in both exams, the results are still concerning, given that an average score signifies that one in five American teens do not meet the financial literacy benchmark, and are therefore unprepared for the complex financial decisions that come with choosing postsecondary and career options. This data becomes more concerning when examined through the lens of socioeconomic status. Students from lower-income families were less likely to score high marks on the exam, indicating that schools are not doing enough to close gaps in knowledge.

Odds and Ends

What is a community college degree worth? A research brief from CAPSEE aims to answer that very question. The report examines independent state evaluations and finds that, on average, the quarterly earnings for men and women earning associate degrees are $1,160 and $1,790 higher than non-completers respectively. Further, the study finds that degrees earned in vocational fields, as opposed to arts and humanities, yield higher earnings, with degrees in health-related fields the most lucrative.

Speaking of skills learned in college, a recent Gallup poll — conducted for the Business-Higher Education Forum — finds that, while 69 percent of employers will prefer candidates with data science and analytics skills by 2021, only 23 percent of college and university leaders say their graduates will learn those skills. The report provides eight strategies educators and employers can use to help close the skills gap.

Ashleigh McFadden, State Policy Manager

By Ashleigh McFadden in Uncategorized
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